Today, many Americans will convene in various public settings to pray publicly with one another in honor of National Day of Prayer. And many Americans will undoubtedly see this as an assault from the religious right, if not a full-blown infringement upon the separation of church and state.
I fall somewhere in between. The former agnostic in me can easily relate to the mind frame many must have who question why the need to have a National Day of Prayer to begin with. Yet I also look at it as freedom of religion. No one is saying to whom you must pray, or for what you must pray. In fact, no one is saying you must pray at all. It’s simply a day set aside to honor prayer for all who feel compelled to do so.
And though faith is a big part of who I am as well as who my family is, we’ll not be partaking in public praying. Even so, the timing of National Prayer Day couldn’t be any better for me.
For lately I’ve noticed a concern that seems to grow each and every evening as I listen to the evening prayer that Caroline leads for the triplets. So today, while many may will debate whether or not National Prayer Day is appropriate, I’ll instead ponder whether the manner in which my toddler triplets are praying is appropriate.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,” Caroline will begin. “I pray the Lord our soul to keep. God bless Mommy, Daddy, Alli, Sam, Jack, Kirby and Briggs. Does anyone have any special prayers?” Caroline asks.
And that’s when the floodgates usually open. Sammy goes on and on and on as if he’s more delighted in his chance to have the floor than he is at his chance to speak with God. Once Kirby gets her turn, she prays for any and everything. Her bed. Her socks. The bathtub toys. Her pinkie. Jack? He always refuses to pray, usually still upset that story time has given way to our prayer. Only if we prod him will he ever offer anything up, and even then, it’s usually done in a whiny and disrespectful way.
I sometimes worry that we’re encouraging our trio to pray too early—that they’re just not ready to handle the act with the reverence it deserves. I also worry that the triplets equate praying with a list they make out to Santa, treating the session as if it’s a request booth.
Lord knows we don’t always get what we pray for. Few things are offered up with a tidy little ribbon on it. Our journey is riddled with struggle and strife, such that often, ironically, we come to realize only later that not getting what we had originally prayed for gave us things that make us far richer, indeed.
How can the triplets possibly learn this when they think of God as a favor grantor and Jesus as an adorable animated baby we read to them about?
Yet the Lord teaches us to be patient. It’s that same patience that eventually allows us to see the good that comes out of the bad we can’t believe He let happen. It’s that same patience that allows us to see that the way in which things evolved weren’t without their divine rhyme and reason.
It’s that same patience that will likely serve me well if I can somehow muster it up, even in the wake of the most shamefully inappropriate prayers offered up by our tiny trio. And that’s ultimately what I’ll try to remember. They’re three. Not thirty. Be patient. With practice and repetition comes growth and understanding.
So to that end, virtually any and everything they pray for is perfectly acceptable after all. Besides, at least they’re praying. And that’s what will strike me most about this National Prayer Day.